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Richard Merjan – From IGS to the Olympics and Beyond

Richard Merjan had never been in a kayak until his first session during Year 7 in the IGS swimming pool and he was hooked! He credits finding his passion to his time at the School and the two key kayaking teachers, Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Hogg, and recalls the rapid development of the sport. In Year 9 he was a member of the Australian Junior Development Team and was travelling and competing for Australia overseas.

Richard always knew he wanted to compete on the biggest stage possible, the Olympics. He raced in many Australian teams during 2003-2008. He knew a time would come where he would need to make some important decisions regarding the balance between kayaking and studying.

Richard held dual citizenship and began racing for Lebanon in 2009. In 2016 he qualified for the Rio Olympic Games. Richard balanced full time work, study and a vigorous training schedule, strategically pinpointing the international races he needed to compete in, setting and achieving goals along the way. He is forever grateful for the support he received from the Lebanese Olympic Committee, Australian Canoeing, Ivanhoe Grammar School and of course his mother.

His coach, Zlatan Ibrahimbegovic, who Richard credits as one of the ‘biggest inspirations of his life’, always instilled the importance of study and ‘life after a sporting career.’ This advice prompted Richard to consider another passion which included numbers and the stock market.

Richard completed a double Bachelor Degree in Commerce and Arts, majoring in Finance and Arabic  and subsequently a Master of Business Administration from Monash Business School in 2019.
His commercial finance career was kick-started in 2012 when he graduated, with the assistance of OIGA Executive Officer, Geoff Brown (’62), who connected him to fellow alumni and former CEO of Etihad Airways, James Hogan (’75).  James assisted Richard in gaining an internship in Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways. His career progressed with a graduate position at Deloitte in Australia, followed by commercial finance positions at Jetstar Airways and Bapcor. Currently, Richard is working for Hanwha Defence Australia in a strategic role.

The support which these companies provided throughout his training was instrumental in Richard competing at an unforgettable experience at the Rio Olympics.

Watching the coverage of the Tokyo Olympics was bittersweet for him, as the lockdowns impacted   his training to the point where he withdrew from the Asian qualifiers. However, he has his sights set on Paris 2024 and the qualification events in 2023.

Richard’s advice to young alumni and current year 12 students is to “have the confidence to ask questions, reach out to alumni for mentoring or advice especially during lockdowns and these uncertain times, keep a routine, set goals and stay hungry! This is so important – balancing family/ friends, education, exercise and career.

We wish Richard every success in his career and look forward to cheering him on in Paris!
Photo Credit: JGR images